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Metroid Prime Preview

Let’s face it; Metroid has always been one of Nintendo’s biggest and greatest franchises, and that fact is not going to change anytime soon. From it’s early days on the original Nintendo Entertainment System to it’s spectacular release on the Super Nintendo, the Metroid series has always been close to gamer’s hearts. Each title gave player’s an epic adventure through the eyes of Samus Aran (the female star of the series), providing them with non stop fun and excitement through the franchise’s intricate style of exploration and shooting. Electronic Gaming Monthly, in their 10 year anniversary edition for the SNES, even went so far as to proclaim the third installment of the series, “Super Metroid,” as the greatest “side-scrolling action/adventure ever to grace a console,” along with calling it the best title ever for the SNES. The game, and the series as a whole, is just that damn good. And now, nearly a decade and a half since the first title in the series hit stores, the fourth installment of the amazing saga is getting primed (pun-intended) for release.

Metroid Prime starts exactly as you’d expect it to. Once again, the galaxy is at peace, thanks to the exploits of Samus in Super Metroid. But soon strange reports of Space Pirates surface, and Samus once again finds herself an investigator for The Galactic Federation. As she draws close to a distant planet called Tallon IV, she notices an apparently empty and deserted space station in orbit. She, of course, decides to investigate, and the game starts.

After an amazing cut-scene of her landing, complete with incredible amount of detail running in real-time, the game puts the player in control. This is the point where, if you haven’t noticed it before now, you’ll stop and stare in awe at the quality of the graphics. However cliché it may sound, the game is simply jaw-dropping gorgeous. The level of detail, the polygon count, the textures, all running at 60 frames per second really will amaze you when you see it. And the Retro Studios hasn’t even finished making the game yet.

After you’ve wiped off the drool dribbling down your face, you’ll immediately notice the layout and perspective of the game. Unlike it’s predecessors, Retro Studios decided to implement a First Person perspective for the majority of the game, in lieu with the standard First Person Shooter. Although some long-time fans of the series may cringe at this drastic change from the game’s side-scrolling roots, Retro claims that it’s for the better. Instead of proclaiming it a “First Person Shooter,” Nintendo and Retro affirm that the game should be classified as a “First Person Adventure,” as it focuses on the exploration element that made the original titles so popular. Such a statement can be easily understood, especially after playing through the first level, which we’ll elaborate upon later.

Nintendo and Retro have not simply copied the standard view of a common FPS, but have instead decided to expand upon it greatly. Rather than merely viewing your character’s health status and ammo on the screen, Retro has put you behind Samus’s visor, so that you are now seeing through her eyes. Data concerning your health and ammo, weapon, scanning information, enemies, will flow across your screen exactly as you’d expect it to in a highly-modified, bio-engineered, super-powered bounty hunter suit. Switching between different visor views to scan enemies and controls are seamless and quick, and overall truly makes you feel as though you’re Samus. Condensation will even appear on the visor in hot areas, as well as water splashes in rainy areas. Occasionally, you’ll even be able to see Samus’ reflection in her visor during flashes of light and energy.

With a new perspective and interface comes a new control scheme. No longer limited to four directions (up, down, left, and right), Retro has instigated a control scheme that they believe functions more or less perfectly with the overall style of the game. The Analog/Control stick moves Samus Forward, Backwards, and turns her Left and Right. Holding down the “L” shoulder button when enemies are not near will allow Samus to strafe left and right, however, a full circular strafe is not possible. The “R” button does allow for a “free look” or “aiming” mode, but it is not exactly a way to look up or down quickly like in a standard FPS. Rather, by pressing the L button when enemies are near, Samus will automatically lock-onto the closest enemy, much like Zelda’s “Z-targeting.” Once “locked-on” to an enemy, strafing is easily executed. Using this method, you can also automatically lock onto enemies higher or lower than you, rather than actually taking the time to look up or down at them. Retro believes this setup to be the best for the way they have set up the game as a First Person Adventure, as opposed to a straight shooter.

Meanwhile, the rest of the controls are much simpler. The ever large “A” (action) button does exactly what you would expect it to; fires the selected weapon. Holding it down will charge the weapon, while pressing it Ball mode will drop one of Samus’s infamous Ball Bombs. The C-stick is used to switch and select weapons, while the “Y” button is used to fire missles. The “B” button is used for jumping and sidestepping and the “X” button morphes to Ball mode and back. Finally, the D-Pad switches between visors, and the “L” button locks on to targets. The “L” button is also used to scan items, as well as activate the Grappling Beam. (A note on the grappling beam; it seems that Retro has decided not to allow players to use it whenever/wherever, and instead will be able to be activated only at certain points, depending on the situation. Basically, players will need to be at a point where they can actually use it before they can activate it.)

But none of these controls will matter if the game itself sucks, right? Well, thankfully, that’s not even close to a problem. What retro has done to this game, this genre-creator, is beyond amazing. Pure and simple, this game is the best thing for the GameCube coming out this year. Forget Mario. Forget Star Fox. And Zelda? That’s not even coming out this year. Metroid is the game to get.

Once again, the game starts immediately after Samus boards the deserted space station. The play mechanics of the game instantly envelope the player as they are thrust into Samus’s shoes. Control, although it may take a little bit of time for veteran FPS players to get used to, is simple and innovative, giving players a degree of control and structure not commonly found in similar games.

As the game progresses, players will truly be filled with awe at what this game offers. Shooting enemies as hundreds of them race towards you along the interior of a tunnel, scanning a hologram that allows you activate an elevator down to a lower cavern, and exploring an area drenched in rain and thunderstorms are all mere samples of what this game provides for you. Levels are large and spacious, each containing many different ways to accomplish goals. Exploration plays more than just a side role; rather, like the previous games in the series, it is a key-element of the game, and builds upon the existing First Person genre to create something outstanding. If shooting hordes of enemies is your thing, then this game will provide. If taking a more “stealthy” course of action is in your interest, you can do it. And if avoiding enemies entirely, and instead exploring massive levels to find different routes to victory is what you enjoy doing, then once again, this is the game for you. What Retro has done is pure genius.

Retro has also not forgotten a key part of the Metroid series; Samus’s ball mode. By pressing the “X” button and morphing into Samus’s infamous ball mode, the camera will pan back from the first person perspective and switch into third person. Controlling the ball is simple, while at the same time allowing experienced players an extreme amount of control. Plus, the ball mode further expands on Retro’s resolution for Metroid Prime to be more than a simple FPS by adding play mechanics and game play not found anywhere else. Only by morphing into ball mode will players be able to access different parts of the level. Samus may be required to navigate through a small tunnel only big enough for her Ball form to fit in. Or Samus may need to ride along some vertical magnetic tracks, only capable in Ball mode. Additionally, Retro has gone the extra mile in adding accurate phsyics to Samus when in Ball form. Rolling down a hill will add momentum, whereas attempting to roll up a half pipe may result in a quick roll down. Major kudos to Retro for the level of detail they have added to the game.

To wrap it up, what has been seen so far by this game is mind-blowing. Even with the amount of doubts surrounding Retro Studios concerning the outcome of the game, Retro has not faltered once in its mission to create one of the best titles of all time. A game as beautiful as Halo, running at a solid 60 frames per second, with hours upon hours of pure and simple joy. A game that does more than just rival it’s predecessors in terms of greatness, but rather goes above and beyond the example that they set. A game of such a stunning magnitude, even with it’s few flaws, that it can already be proclaimed one of the greatest titles that will ever hit consoles… or even the video game market as a whole. Make no mistake about it, this game is a keeper. Now, all we have to do is wait until November 16th….

Review by Message Board Member UltiSpaz atreides128@hotmail.com

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